How It All Began

Throughout the twenty-four years I shared with Roger Ebert as my partner and husband, we built our life upon a foundation of empathy. What that meant was not “otherizing” those who were different from us, but rather working to understand and recognize everyone as a fellow traveler on this life journey. Living with that modus operandi opened our eyes and hearts to new revelations about the commonalities in the human fiber that runs through each and every one of us, and how we really are all in this life together.

As Roger and I navigated his final months on this earthly plane, I made him a promise: to do my part to make each day interesting and worth living. Since his “leave of presence” in 2013, it has been my fervent desire for the qualities of forgiveness, empathy, compassion, and kindness—what I call “The FECK Principles”—to spread in such a viral way that they become natural parts of the lives of every human being on this planet. Why? Because I truly believe that simple offers of the heart—those with the power to transform empathy into action—can spur a new level of connectedness and understanding between every one of us.

If you care to change the way things are in our world and bring more love into the picture —love for life itself, for yourself, and for others—then you are in the right place.


Roger and I worked to provide programs where empathy could be taught or experienced through film. One of the programs I am most proud of is the Ebert Fellowship programs, launched in 2014 by Robert Redford at the Sundance Film Festival to honor Roger after his death. The purpose was and is to encourage students to apply the FECK Principles in their work and life as film critics, filmmakers, or technologists. I expanded the initiative to include students at other film venues and work closely with the students and emerging filmmakers (“Ebert Fellows”) at the now year-round Ebert Fellowship program at the College of Media at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Every time I hear of how the Ebert Fellows are leading with love, it warms my heart. An engineer in the fellowship shared he was working on an app to encourage compassion; another student was an aspiring film producer dedicating herself to going back to her hometown in Zimbabwe to do philanthropic work. Writers in the program share that they keep the principles, especially empathy, close in mind when writing film scripts. These students show us how each and every one of us can truly have a big impact with even the smallest steps through which we show a stranger, a colleague, or a friend that we truly are all in this life together.

That is the essence of what it means to “Give a FECK.”

A Point to Ponder

Sharing the totality of what forgiveness, empathy, compassion, and kindness collectively represent is the next step in the work Roger and I began together over the course of more than two decades. As I dedicate myself to sharing messages of love and unity, I challenge you to also become a catalyst for positive change.

It all begins with our looking for new ways, big or small, to help goodness come from any circumstance. For today, I leave you with these initial questions to ponder:

What contributions are you currently making in the name of forgiveness, empathy, compassion, and kindness?
What are you currently giving to your community? To your neighbors? To your colleagues? To your friends? To your family?

Write your answers down and celebrate them! Then, begin to think of ways you can expand upon them. Check back with me weekly as I share the inspiring stories of “the Many Faces of FECK”—people from every walk of life who are selflessly giving of themselves and offer new ideas and actions you can take. It is my hope that everything I share will inspire you with new ideas of how to integrate the actionable FECK Principles into your life in an even bigger way…and feel the impact doing so has.

Until next week!

“Bravo, Chaz Ebert, for rising to the occasion to share such an incredibly hopeful and realistic perspective on goodness in our world!”

—Lawrence Bender, Producer, Inglourious Basterds, Pulp Fiction, Good Will Hunting, and more—films with 37 Academy Award nominations and 9 wins


“A warm, articulate display about the powerful potential of universally shared human values.”

—Verdine White, 6-Time Grammy-Winning Artist, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee, and Founding Member of Earth, Wind & Fire